If you’re a fan of the NFL, the middle of the summer can be the most monotonous time on the calendar. OTAs are over and training camp has yet to begin. Questions are about the only thing a fan has to keep their football fever from developing into a full-blown case of pigskin paralysis.
Now just a few weeks out from the start of training camp around the league, we are prepared to start answering some of those questions in what will certainly be the first of about 2,500 season previews you’ll read between now and September 10th. We’ll break down every NFL team, and every division. We’ll walk you through the postseason, and tell you which players will stand out at the end of this season as the brightest stars the game can offer.
Let’s begin this series by breaking down the AFC East
1. New England Patriots (11-5)
With the fallout from “Deflategate” still fresh in the minds of fans, and Tom Brady’s fate still very much in question, it’s difficult to say exactly what kind of attitude the defending champions will bring into the upcoming NFL season. One thing is certain. This Patriots team doesn’t have anywhere near the kind of talent they did last season.
This is particularly true in their secondary, where the loss of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner (both starting corners) in free agency will undoubtedly make them vulnerable in the passing game. With other teams in the East on the rise, the Patriots will have to fight for their division for the first time in years.
2. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
During the offseason, the Dolphins were finally able to rectify one of the bigger mistakes of recent NFL history and unload wide receiver Mike Wallace’s albatross of a contract on the Minnesota Vikings, leaving Miami with the likes of Greg Jennings, Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, and Kenny Stills. While that list might not impress you, Miami continues to find their way behind the ever developing Ryan Tannehill.
Their season will rest largely on the play of their offensive line. Last year, Tannehill was sacked on nearly 7.2% of his drop backs, ranking him in the bottom ten in the league. If the Dolphins offensive line, led by 26-year-old guard Mike Pouncey, can protect their fourth-year quarterback, they’ll be able to make considerable noise in the AFC East, and potentially find their way into a postseason bid.
3. Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Rex Ryan coaching the Bills is a little like Donald Trump running for President. He’ll make noise, get folks in the door, and generate media attention, but he’s not going to win. Ryan faces much the same problem in upstate New York he did in the City. He doesn’t have a quarterback. E.J. Manuel has shown flickers of potential, but certainly isn’t a long-term answer. And, Matt Cassel is…Matt Cassel.
The Bills defense will be an aggressive, quarterback hunting machine under Ryan, but it doesn’t matter all that much if your offense can only score nine points a game. The addition of LeSean McCoy will be a bright spot on an otherwise anemic offense. Without a quarterback to convert third-and-long situations, the Bills will find themselves in the same situation they’ve found themselves in for the last sixteen seasons.
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4. New York Jets (5-11)
Based on resume alone, Todd Bowles is the right man for the New York Jets. Unfortunately, games aren’t played on resumes. The Jets made a number of quality moves in the offseason. Making a deal with the Bears for Brandon Marshall will finally provide them with a legitimate number one wide receiver and, bringing back Darrelle Revis strengthens their secondary.
However, with the enormous number of questions surrounding Geno Smith, Bryce Petty, and the rest of the Jets quarterback group, it’s extremely unlikely that they’ll see any considerable uptick in performance this season. Look for the Jets to once again finish last in this division, with a chance to grab Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg, or Ohio State’s Cardale Jones near the top of the draft.